CANNES, France (Reuters) - Danish director Lars Von Trier's comments on Wednesday at a press conference in Cannes at which he jokingly declared himself a Nazi caused consternation at the film festival and offense among Jewish groups.
The Danish maverick is at the annual film festival with his competition film "Melancholia," a grand cinematic statement on life, death and the universe which wowed a packed audience at a press screening in the giant Grand Theater Lumiere.
But his provocative comments, apparently made in jest, threatened to overshadow the triumph many journalists and critics felt his movie to be.
The Hollywood Reporter's headline was "Lars Von Trier Admits to Being a Nazi, Understanding Hitler," adding that the 55-year-old had "pulled a Mel Gibson" in reference to the latter's anti-Semitic slurs in 2006 that harmed his reputation.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said in a statement: "Holocaust survivors condemn Von Trier's repulsive comments as an insensitive exploitation of victims' suffering for self-serving promotion and publicity.
"His bizarre comments may have been made in jest and for shock, but those subjected to the brutalities of the Nazi regime cannot find amusement in recalling the torture and deaths of those terrible times.
"We cannot give a review of his film, but as a person Von Trier is a moral failure."
Flanked at the news conference by his two leading stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, Von Trier made several references to making a long porn film featuring the actresses.
As the conference drew to a close, the director, who won the Palme d'Or in Cannes for best picture with "Dancer in the Dark," was asked to expand on comments he made in a recent interview regarding his interest in the Nazi aesthetic.
"I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew," said Von Trier, who, according to biographies, believed his father to be Jewish until his mother revealed to him on her death bed that his father was actually German.
"Then later on came (Jewish and Danish director) Susanne Bier and then suddenly I wasn't so happy about being a Jew. No, that was a joke, sorry.
"But it turned out I was not a Jew but even if I'd been a Jew I would be kind of a second rate Jew because there is kind of a hierarchy in the Jewish population.
"But anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German, Hartmann, which also gave me some pleasure."
Dunst was visibly uncomfortable as he continued his monologue, which drew laughs then gasps among reporters.
"What can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.
"I think I understand the man. He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews.
"I am of course very much for Jews. No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still, how can I get out of this sentence?"
He expressed admiration for Nazi architect Albert Speer before ending another rambling sentence with: "OK, I'm a Nazi."
The last question he faced was about whether "Melancholia" was his answer to the Hollywood blockbuster and whether he could make a movie that was even bigger in scale.
"Yeah, that's what we Nazis ... we have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale. Yeah, may be you could persuade me." As a passing shot, he referred to the press conference as the "final solution with journalists."Dunst, who was not smiling by the end, could be heard saying: "Oh Lars, that was intense."
The trouble with people today is everyone has such thin skins. Come on, lighten up. We all must learn to laugh at ourselves.
I'm half Irish, half German. I remember an episode of "Family Guy" when they went to Ireland. When the jet landed at Shannon Airport, it went through a sea of empty beer bottles. The pub they visited there was called "Wifey McBeaty's". I laughed my White ass off.
When they went to Germany and took a bus tour of Munich, the tour guide stopped at 1934, and picked up again in 1946. When one of them asked, "What happened from 1934 to 1945?" The guide shouted, "Nothing happened! Nothing at all! SIEG HEIL!" Hilarious!
So if you're say of French ancestry, and you ever hear someone remark, "That jerk was so scared he ran like a Frenchman from a cap gun!", don't get pissed. Either laugh it off or ignore it. I'm not saying we should stand for abuse by any means. On the other hand, just because some ignorant idiot makes a Jew remark at us, doesn't mean we have to Jew them back. Let's all develop a thicker skin than they have. Let's show that we have more class than they have.